Hearing a discussion on television today, focused around schoolgirls’ attire, and whether it’s safer (or perhaps I should say, less encouraging of unwanted attention) for girls to wear thick tights with their skirts. Whilst I do agree that a lot of schoolgirls wear their skirts something on the short side (I did, and not much has changed in the world of teenage girls, I don’t think) and tights would preserve a certain amount of modesty, I really think that education about keeping yourself and each other safe is key. Let me be very clear, nothing that a girl wears should be seen as an invitation, but, sadly, that doesn’t always seem to hold much water for some sick people in our world today.
Both boys and girls (not to mention men and women) can put themselves at risk from potential attack, particularly in winter when more people are walking around in the dark, if they aren’t aware of what’s going on around them. It’s so easy to walk around in a bubble; texting, tweeting, listening to music, and all it takes is an opportunist to seize their chance. Eldest takes the train to school now, and on occasion has to walk across our town centre to Mr’s office. He’s 10. It might only be 4.15pm, and under ten minutes walk, but it’s getting dark. He’s a bright child, but he’s only small (well, he’ll always be my little boy) and if he was to be attacked, he’d have very little chance of fighting someone off. We tell him to stick to main roads, public areas, and not to be on his phone while he’s walking in order to keep himself safe when he’s not with us, and if possible, stay with friends.
Of course, all this applies to adults too. In the festive season, especially, after a night out, it’s easy to lose focus and also our fears. Alcohol affects our judgement, so it’s doubly important to plan ahead to avoid unforeseen circumstances that might put you in danger. There is some great information on Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a charity set up in memory of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, who disappeared in 1986 after she went to meet a client. Simple tips, like travel in groups, book taxis in advance, keep your phone, keys and some money in your pocket, not your bag, and don’t go anywhere with someone you’ve just met. These might sound like common sense, but it’s important to remember them just the same. Most of all, just stay aware of your surroundings, and keep vigilant.
As well as educating ourselves and our children about risks, I do think it’s equally important to teach children about how important their own conduct is, and what’s acceptable, versus what could be construed as threatening or intimidating, even if it’s unintentional. Eldest now studies “Citizenship”, which seems to be similar to what we called PSHE (personal, social and health education) and covers, among other things, bullying, morals, decision making – basically how to be a good person. I think it’s a great lesson – kind of RE without the “R” part – and it’s raised some interesting discussions in our house already – things like “what would you do if your friends got into a fight?” It’s fascinating to hear what goes through Eldest (and Youngest)’s minds when faced with dilemmas, but I think the thought process helps them to develop a good moral compass, and know right from wrong, as well as giving them the confidence to do the right thing, even if it isn’t what their friends might choose.
I really hope that by teaching our children in this way, about respecting other people, looking after each other, and treating everyone as you’d hope to be treated yourself, one day we may be able to live in a society where we don’t feel the need to teach ways of staying safe. Until then, we must do everything we can to look after ourselves and our loved ones.
Do you have any tips to add for staying safe this winter? I’d love your comments!